A Disc in the Ant Nebula
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A Disc in the Ant Nebula

October 8, 2007
Using ESO's Very Large Telescope Interferometer, astronomers have uncovered a disc in the heart of the Ant Nebula. The disc seems, however, too 'skinny' to explain how the nebula got its intriguing ant-like shape. The image on the right shows a previously taken image of the Ant Nebula, in the mid-infrared, with the VLT Imager and Spectrometer for the mid-InfraRed (VISIR) (see ESO Press Photo 16e/04). The image on the left shows a model of the dusty disc the astronomers uncovered with the MID-infrared Interferometric instrument (MIDI), which combined the light from two 8.2-m VLT Unit Telescopes. The lower part of the image representing the southern lobe is brighter, for this lobe is closer to our line-of-sight. The major axis of the flat, nearly edge-on disc is perpendicular to the axis of the bipolar lobes of the nebula. The disc extends from about 9 times the mean distance between the Earth and the Sun (9 Astronomical Units or 9 AU) to more than 500 AU.

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